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5 Ways to Improve Efficiencies on the Job Shop Floor

Jul 07, 2017
By: Mark Stevens

Improve Shop Floor Efficiencies 

Multiple projects are managed simultaneously in a job shop, most of them custom and demanding varying production requirements, lead times, and due dates. These types of high-mix operations can make boosting productivity difficult, but finding efficiencies is critical to enhancing profitability and maintaining an edge in the highly competitive manufacturing industry.

Productivity on your job shop floor requires a team of personnel who can keep everything on track, on time, and running smoothly. To do that, they need efficient processes, equipment, and technology to operate at peak performance. Below are five tips to help focus your efforts on maximizing efficiencies that lead to higher productivity.

1. Evaluate and Optimize Your Workflow

It’s important to have a baseline to improve upon, so evaluate existing output levels in order to measure any improvements. Then, identify the pain points in your current workflows. Are orders getting hung up between the sales process and production, resulting in delayed timelines? Does inventory run dangerously low before someone realizes it? Is erratic scheduling creating unnecessary bottlenecks on the production line?

Consider creating a value stream map of the flow of materials and information as a way to identify delays in your processes and any factors that impact efficiencies. This team exercise gathers representatives from each area within the organization and maps out the process of completing an order, from the beginning until it arrives at the customer’s loading dock. Ideally, it should be facilitated by someone with experience in creating value stream maps.

2. Get Organized

When employees end up searching for misplaced tools, supplies or files, it adds up to significant downtime. Studies suggest that the search for lost and misplaced materials and files accounts for nearly 38 hours per employee per year—nearly an entire week of lost productivity each! In addition to the tangible costs, consider how morale is affected and the added frustration and stress disorganization can create.

Many manufacturers apply Lean methods or the 5S method for reducing waste and creating standardized processes. Both methodologies originated in the Japanese manufacturing sector and focus on eliminating obstacles, creating smoother workflows, preventing equipment failures, implementing cleaning/maintenance schedules and other procedures, all to ensure that areas stay organized and are optimized for efficiency.

3. Evaluate Your Equipment

If your equipment requires more time for repairs than it does for production, you may need to consider whether it’s of value to your organization. Evaluate each piece of equipment and track maintenance schedules. Does maintenance need to be adjusted to proactively address recurring issues rather than waiting until a problem occurs? Consider using available software and technologies to measure output and monitor performance over time. You may discover that a machine isn’t being cleaned as often as it should be or needs more frequent lubrication to operate at peak performance. Sensors and meters can also deliver data to help you determine which equipment is generating revenue and which is failing to deliver ROI.

4. Reduce Work in Progress

Most job shops will have some level of work in progress (WIP), but too much can tie up cash that could be used to generate higher returns elsewhere. It also takes up space on the factory floor and can pose a risk when kept near equipment or traffic areas. Excess WIP can result from improper production planning, excessive manual labor, errors in the supply chain, and other factors. Identifying and addressing why your job shop may have unnecessary WIP can make a significant impact on improving efficiencies.

5. Implement an ERP

Have you considered how many of your processes are redundant? You may have multiple departments using different software and systems to keep track of data, inventory, orders, supplies, customer records, vendors, HR, and more. With today’s materials, equipment, and software becoming increasingly complex, it’s important to align processes across all business units for maximum visibility and productivity. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help reduce redundancies, provide actionable insights from the data it gathers, improve efficiencies and reduce the likelihood of errors. It’s a solution that can be customized to address specific needs and can help you grow your job shop significantly by creating efficiencies that create a competitive advantage.

When you identify inefficiencies within your job shop and focus efforts on improving them, you’ll be in a much better position to grow profitably. With the insights from an ERP solution helping you make better decisions and an organization that’s optimized for maximum production, you may even find that you’re able to get into new markets with new products. The manufacturing experts at Wipfli can help you implement Lean processes and evaluate which ERP system can best serve your needs. Reach out today to learn more.


Mark Stevens
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